Tag Archives: Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan


Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan

This is Jennifer Egan’s fifth novel. I loved A Visit From the Goon Squad and went on to read Look at Me and The Keep (which I found in our book shelves – I think my mother-in-law gave it to my husband.

Here is the blurb …

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

There must have been a bit of research involved in writing this novel – the descriptions of the ‘diving dress’ and life on board a merchant navy ship during the World War 2 were detailed and intricate.  This is a meticulously created world that the reader feels they inhabit. I love (good) historical fiction – finding out about life in a different time and place.

I think this is well-written and dynamic – there are gangsters, show girls, beautiful tailoring, diving and wandering along the ocean bed. I think it would make a fabulous movie or television series.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is still my favourite, but I feel I know more now having read this novel.

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The Keep – Jennifer Egan

I like Jennifer Egan – I’ve read Look at Me and A Visit from the Goon Squad so when I found The Keep in our book shelves I was quite pleased – I think someone must have given it to Mr H as a present.

Here’s the blurb …

 After twenty years apart, two cousins reunite in Eastern Europe to renovate a medieval castle. The cousins are irrevocably bound to one another through the shared experience of their youth, when a childhood prank with devastating consequences changed both their lives forever. In an environment of desolation, isolation and paranoia, the cousins are falling under the gothic spell of the castle and its violent history. The crimes of the past and present are about to collide, and with unthinkable results …

This novel has a fabulous construction – there are links and twists and unexpected connections, not to mention the aging vindictive baroness. Is it a fiction written by a prison inmate or is he re-telling a true tale? There is an under-current of menace, but is that real or in Danny’s head?

I loved reading this book – it was gothic and mysterious and romantic (all three genre type things), but incredibly clever and well-written.

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Look at Me – Jennifer Egan

I read A Visit from the Goon Squad and loved it. So I was keen to read this one.

Here is the blurb …

In her first novel since her widely praised debut, The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan demonstrates once again her virtuosity at weaving a spellbinding story with language that dazzles. In this boldly ambitious and symphonic novel, she captures the tenor of our times and offers an unsettling glimpse of the future.

Fashion model Charlotte Swenson returns to Manhattan, having just recovered from a catastrophic car accident in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. The skin of her face is perfect, but behind it lie eighty titanium screws that hold together the bones that were shattered when she hit the unbreakable windscreen of her car.

Unrecognizable to her peers and colleagues, Charlotte finds it impossible to resume her former life. Instead, she floats invisibly through a world of fashion nightclubs and edgy Internet projects, where image and reality are indistinguishable.

During her recovery in Rockford, she had met another Charlotte, the plain-looking teenage daughter of her former best friend. Young Charlotte, alienated from parents and friends, has come under the sway of two men: her uncle, a mentally unstable scholar of the Industrial Revolution, and an enigmatic high school teacher whom she seduces.

In following these tales to their eerie convergence, Look at Me is both a send-up of image culture in America and a mystery of human identity. Egan illuminates the difficulties of shaping an inner life in a culture obsessed with surfaces and asks whether “truth” can have any meaning in an era when reality itself has become a style.

Written with powerful intelligence and grace, Look at Me clearly establishes Jennifer Egan as one of the most daring and gifted novelists of her generation.In her first novel since her widely praised debut, The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan demonstrates once again her virtuosity at weaving a spellbinding story with language that dazzles. In this boldly ambitious and symphonic novel, she captures the tenor of our times and offers an unsettling glimpse of the future.

I really enjoyed this novel in fact I liked it so much I’m going to dig out my husband’s copy of The Keep.

I read a review at The Guardian, which was what I thought, but written so much better than I can ever do I’m just going to link to it.


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A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan


I selected this book for book club after reading a review in the Weekend Australian. I liked it. It has different points of view – the structure is quite intriguing ranging from first person to third person there is even an amazing chapter in second person. The time period changes as well from the near past, to the present, to the near future (where the environment has suffered – solar panels in the desert, etc.)

Here is the blurb …

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

I would say this novel is a series of interconnected short stories. Although it is more than that – the characters grow, change and adapt, the writing technique alters with each chapter (including one chapter that is consists of power point slides) and then there is the inner lives of the extremely diverse characters – who would have thought that an attempted rape could be so hilarious? And the idea of a suicide rock tour?

The goon in the title is time and all of the characters have certainly been visited by time. I enjoyed the different stages of people’s lives – it seems like one part is going to last for ever and before you know it you’re at a different point with different people and then that changes and your some where else again.

For me this novel was also about appearances and spin. With just the right hat you can make a war criminal look benevolent. By using ‘parrots’ you can create enthusiasm for a musician (he must be good if all of these seemingly independent people say he is).

This might all sound quite chaotic and although I think this book deserves a second reading, it all comes together quite convincingly. From the experience of my book club, it would appear that different readers take different things away.

Some where in my ‘to be read’ pile is The Keep (also by Egan), which I look forward to reading soon.

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